On August 31, the US ordered the Russian government to close its consulate general in San Francisco, a chancery annex in Washington, D.C., and a consular annex in New York City. These closures were set to be complete by September 2. This move went beyond all norms of the diplomatic relations between countries. On September 6, one more sharp answer to the US actions appeared from the Russian side.
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s comment on the seizure of Russian diplomatic buildings by US authorities (SOURCE):
We have taken note of the awkward attempts by US representatives to justify the unceremonious decision to seize Russian diplomatic property on September 2 in an attempt to give them the appearance of “legitimacy.” However, there can be no justification for such outrageous actions.
What the US State Department calls “inspections” were in fact an illegal invasion of Russian diplomatic premises accompanied by what was in effect a search from basement to attic. In particular, desk drawers and closets were thoroughly checked. FBI agents searched every nook and cranny, even opening up the ceiling. Some of these actions were videotaped and made public.
Importantly, the buildings, which constitute the property of our state, were not sealed but seized. The Americans “in civilian clothes” remain there. Armed police stand guard along the perimeter of the adjoining grounds.
The Americans are doing some obscure kind of work inside the Consulate General in San Francisco – sawing, planing, all of which we understand is causing major damage to the historical interior. US agents are walking on the roof. In other words, they are behaving like occupiers.
To reiterate, these actions are a flagrant violation of the fundamental norms of international law, including those specified in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963, and the bilateral Consular Convention of 1964.
The US officials resort to blatant lies without batting an eye, claiming that we “allowed them to enter the premises.” Let’s get the facts straight. We were directly threatened that special tools would be used to break down the entrance doors. This was also the case at our trade mission in Washington, where the Americans broke the gate mechanism in order to let in vehicles bearing agents who searched the house and large boxes with unknown contents that were brought into the building. All of that happened without our representatives, who were allowed to stay only during the initial stage of the search.
Another important fact is that there were small children of the families of our employees in the residential part of the Consulate General in San Francisco, whose safety would have been in jeopardy in the event that the building was taken by force. We could not take that risk.
If the State Department wishes to use the term “inspection” to describe such outrageous actions, where uninvited guests drive the hosts out onto the street, they should consider what this word means in the sphere of arms control. Inspectors are sent in to monitor compliance with various agreements on a reciprocal and parity basis. This begs the question: Does Washington believe that we also have the right to similarly “inspect” the buildings of US diplomatic and consular missions in Russia?